Musings: Resiliency of the Youngs

One couldn’t blame Anthony and Katie Young if they wanted to repeal 2020 and 2021. But, unfortunately, those two years haven’t been kind to them. Granted, the last two years haven’t been pleasant for most people, but the Youngs could be considered the poster children for Murphy’s famous law that if anything can go wrong, it will. But they can also be the poster children for resiliency.

The Youngs have been the personification of resilience since buying Hank’s Place from Peter and Voula Skiadas in 2017. All new businesses take time to catch on, and that holds true even when it’s a matter of a new owner for a given business. That can be especially true when that business is a well-known and highly popular entity such as Hank’s.

The customers had to get to know the new owners just as the Youngs had to get to know the customers from an owner’s perspective. Staff had to learn the personalities of the new bosses and the bosses had to learn how to get the staff to be a team with new leaders.

It took time for them to establish the restaurant as their own, with their slant on the hometown flavor while keeping Hank’s as, as the saying goes, “Where friendly people meet, and hungry people eat.” But they caught traction and it started coming together for them.

Then came 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic and the governor closing restaurants along with a slew of other businesses. Driving by an empty Hank’s parking lot — especially on a Sunday morning when there should be lines of people waiting to get in for brunch — was saddening, to say the least.

But they got through that by literally branching outside for outdoor seating in the parking lot when township supervisors did what those in other townships did, making that an option for restaurants with enough outdoor area. And it worked. People like dining al fresco, even if it’s right next to Route 1. Such ambiance.

They were resilient and started seeing the black instead of the red after months of lockdowns and uncertain COVID-related restrictions. But then came IDA. The creek rose to 21 feet, flooding and wiping out homes and closing businesses.

The U.S. Post Office in Chadds Ford couldn’t let customers inside because flooding had warped the floor. The gas pumps at Leaders Sunoco were submerged. And while no artwork was damaged, the Brandywine River Museum of Art still had to close because of damage to that building and the others on the Brandywine Conservancy campus. Antica, Agave, Brandywine Prime, and Hank’s, were also flooded. Hank's had seven feet of water inside the restaurant.

Leaders Sunoco is partially open now. The service bays are open, but the station still can’t pump gas. The museum is open again, as is the Post Office and three of the four restaurants. Unfortunately, that leaves Hank’s Place still closed and, again, the saddening feeling while driving by and seeing an empty parking lot at Chadds Ford's iconic eatery.

And resiliency makes another appearance. While the Youngs haven’t revealed any specific plans, they intend to rebuild and reopen but need to show prospective lenders that the restaurant is bringing in some money. So, they applied for a Special Event Permit to have a food trailer in the parking lot where they previously had the outdoor dining. Same traffic flow, same safety preclusions. It would operate from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Grab and go only. No seating.

Chadds Ford supervisors did the right thing in granting the Youngs a permit to have the trailer in the parking lot. It took an extra nine days for the supervisors to finally decide, but at least they did right by the Youngs.

The permit is good through March 3. After that, they can file for another permit if they still need to use the trailer for a longer time.

What happens next — among those things outside of a person’s control — is anybody’s guess. Clairvoyance is not on the table, but good wishes are. One can only hope that the next bumps in the road for the Youngs are gentler than the ones they’ve had to face so far.

Most people are aware of the saying that is both a blessing and a curse: “May you live in interesting times.” So, let’s hope the next interesting times for the Youngs are on the positive side, the blessing’s side.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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